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7 - A fourfold conceptual framework for cultural and cross-cultural psychology: relativism, construct universalism, repertoire universalism and absolutism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Johnny R. J. Fontaine
Affiliation:
Ghent University, Belgium
Fons J. R. van de Vijver
Affiliation:
Universiteit van Tilburg, The Netherlands
Athanasios Chasiotis
Affiliation:
Universiteit van Tilburg, The Netherlands
Seger M. Breugelmans
Affiliation:
Universiteit van Tilburg, The Netherlands
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Summary

The dichotomous conceptual framework that opposes relativism to universalism plays a key role in the debates on the culture–psychology relationships (e.g., Berry, Poortinga and Pandey, 1997; see also Eckensberger, this volume). The impact of this dichotomous framework is so profound that it has led to the emergence of the two fairly autonomously functioning sub-domains of cultural psychology and cross-cultural psychology, with the former advocating a relativist and the latter advocating a universalist perspective. The problem with this twofold framework, however, is that universalism is too broad a concept. Universalism can refer to a variety of concepts ranging from approaches that only assume universality of underlying psychological traits and processes to approaches that attribute quantitative cross-cultural differences in psychological test scores to genetic differences. The broadness of the concept causes confusion in theoretical discussions. This problem was recognised by Berry et al. (1992, 2002) in their landmark book Cross-cultural psychology: research and applications. They proposed a threefold conceptual framework in which the extreme form of universalism, which interprets quantitative cross-cultural differences in psychological test scores in terms of genetic differences, was treated as a separate, third perspective. The central thesis of the present contribution is that the recognition of an additional, distinct type of universalism is needed to clarify the confusion that is caused by the broadness of the universalism concept. This thesis is based on a critical analysis of both the twofold and the threefold conceptual framework.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2011

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